Chapter Seven: Rules Are Secondary to the Spirit

Master is often presented by SRF as a harsh, even intolerant, disciplinarian. In fact he was the sweetest, most loving, most unconditionally forgiving human being I have ever known. The only desire I ever beheld in him was a longing to help others achieve victory in their own struggles to reach perfection.

To my dismay, I have found some of my fellow disciples ignoring this aspect of his nature, focused as they are on creating rules to represent what they think ought to be his mission.

a)  Many years ago, a friend of mine worked for six months in the guest quarters at Encinitas. One day, she rearranged a few spices on a kitchen shelf. The cook scolded her heatedly, crying, “Master would never have allowed such liberties!” (As if it really mattered where the spices were placed. I suspect the cook was only using his name to reinforce her own authority.)

b) I never saw in Master even a hint of intolerance. I can, indeed, offer another story from my personal recollections: Once, when he entered the monks’ dining room unexpectedly, he found everything there in disarray. The table and a few of the chairs needed wiping. (At least the dishes had been washed!) We were all painfully embarrassed, but Master seated himself calmly on one of the cleaner chairs, glanced about him briefly, then remarked with a rueful smile, “Well, things might be worse!”

c)  He could also, on the other hand, be very decisive in his training. A scolding from him could be far from gentle. Naturally, if a disciple was steeped in ego-consciousness, those scoldings could seem harsh. The disciple’s perception, however, merely reflected the disciple’s own ego.

1.  I cannot but think that certain disciples have emphasized the harshness of his discipline only to underscore the steadfastness of their own discipleship.

2.  A fellow monk, Bernard Cole, once said to me in confidence, “If you ask me, Old William [William the Conqueror] isn’t dead yet.” Bernard himself, however, had a very strong ego, and, incredibly, made it a point again and again to “correct” his guru.

Ten years after Bernard came as a disciple, Master said to him one day, “For years I’ve listened in silence while you upbraided me. Now I have only this to say to you: ‘I am not impressed!’”

3.  Some four years later, Bernard left the path. I met him again in the late 1970s, shortly before his death. I hope I succeeded in helping him to open his heart to Master once again. Certainly I did my best to bring about this happy ending to his present incarnation. I was reassured by the fact that, when we parted, he hugged me and gave me a warm smile.

4.  Such twists and turns are normal on the soul’s long, winding journey toward its goal of union with God. When the seeker has finally achieved the supreme blessing of attracting a true guru, and has received from him the gift of the guru’s unconditional love, the guru then assumes full responsibility for the disciple’s continued upward evolution. This is a divine duty, and one which the guru takes very seriously, for he is “in it for the long haul.” Naturally, the disciple makes mistakes along the way. The guru waits patiently for him to return to the path of wisdom, and never forces his will on the disciple. For free will is, ever, a divine birthright.

5.  A disciple of Yogananda’s (Norman) once lamented, “I don’t think I have very good karma, Master.”

Vigorously, to dispel any doubt, the Master countered, “Remember this: It takes very, very, VERY good karma even to want to know God!”

Look with sensitive gaze at the crowds in any public place on earth. I think you will see his statement amply confirmed: peaceless faces; confused faces; puzzled faces; angry or covetous faces; grimly egoically directed faces, all of them with their eyes fixed on goals that will eventually bring them nothing but disillusionment.

d) Yogananda once said to SRF’s center leader in Mexico City, Señor J. M. Cuaron, “I lost sight of you for a few incarnations, but now I will never lose touch with you again.” Señor Cuaron thereafter would sometimes remind him, “Remember your promise!”

“I won’t forget,” Master would reply. “I will never lose touch with you again.”

How many stories might be told in the same vein!

e)  My own experience on the path has taught me something very interesting: The deeper a person’s inner bliss, the more decisive he becomes in whatever he says and does. Usually, he becomes more considerate of other people’s feelings, but he may also at times—toward those who depend on him for guidance—be very firm. I don’t mean he is rigidly fixed in his ideas: I mean only that he is interested only in what is true; he is not interested in mere opinions—not even his own opinions. Thus, his decisiveness comes not from self-affirmation, but from the mental clarity that comes with expanding inner bliss.

f)  On the subject of the higher decisiveness which comes from living in and for God, I remember my delight in reading a story about Therese Neumann, the Catholic stigmatist in Konnersreuth, Germany. When she was a young maiden, swains from the nearby village would sometimes come “a-courtin’.” Therese rejected them firmly, sometimes actually driving them off the land with a pitchfork! The average Christian might ask, “Was this an example of Christian humility?” No, it was an example of Christian bliss!

g)  It is intensely painful for me to hear my Guru described as being harshly centered in rules—like the unloving “mother superiors” in many Catholic convents. He himself said to us, “Don’t make too many rules. It destroys the spirit.” SRF has patterned its development on the Roman Catholic Church, and on the rigid rules that have often been the norm in its monasteries. Yogananda’s only real interest, on the other hand, was in guiding people to their own spiritual enlightenment. He never related to anyone from ego-consciousness. Indeed, he had no ego from which to relate! On the infrequent occasions, for example, when he scolded me, I always observed in his eyes not only regret at having to speak to me in that way, but also the bliss he wanted to share with me, and the spiritual determination he hoped to instill in me to keep me striving resolutely toward my own salvation. In no way did he ever try to suppress me.

Only someone with a strong sense of his own ego could have been offended by anything Yogananda ever said or did.

h) What would Master really have allowed in others? Almost anything! His desire was to help all. Never was it to order anyone around or to control anyone’s movements. He only wanted to see us achieve inner freedom.

i)   In this new age of Dwapara, it is becoming more and more natural for people to think in terms of energy. Try this little experiment: Look at some perfect stranger and ask yourself, “Where is that person’s energy centered? From what point in his body does his energy seem to radiate?” Almost always—the more sensitive you are, the more will you see this to be the case—it is centered in the medulla oblongata at the base of the brain. This is the seat of ego-consciousness in the body. Notice how a proud person tends to hold his head up and back, perhaps actually looking down his nose at everyone around him.

Notice also whether a person’s energy seems to be withdrawing into that medullar center, or expanding outward from it, or moving forward from there to the point between the eyebrows.

Then notice whether the energy in his whole body seems to be moving upward toward the brain, or downward toward the base of the spine.

All these foci and directions of energy are indications of a person’s state of consciousness.

There are two good directions for a person’s energy to move: forward from the negative pole of ego at the back of the head toward a point midway between the eyebrows; and upward in the spine toward the brain. The point between the eyebrows (or, to be more exact, the region just behind that point, in the frontal lobe of the brain) is the positive pole of self-consciousness.

Notice whether a person’s energy seems to be rising in the body, and moving forward in the brain, toward that frontal point, or backing away from that point and moving downward in the body. With a little sensitive awareness, you will find it relatively easy to sense these things.

I could tell that my Guru’s energy was completely centered in superconsciousness, at the point between the eyebrows. I could almost see his energy there. The entire flow of his consciousness was upward in the body, and forward in the brain. His whole presence emanated a sense of absolute freedom from ego.

j)  I wish everyone could understand, in the name of truth itself, how deeply grateful everyone should be for Paramhansa Yogananda’s inspiring life of wisdom, compassion, universal love, and perfect bliss: a life ever immersed in, and emanating, God-awareness. Perhaps what we face here, in the contrast between the two organizations that exist in his name, is a conflict between Kali Yuga and Dwapara Yuga consciousness: Kali Yuga being the age we’ve just left behind us, of matter-centeredness; and Dwapara being the present age of energy-consciousness. My reference here is to an ancient system of chronology which the reader would do well to read about. I highly recommend The Yugas; (subtitled, Keys to Understanding Our Hidden Past, Emerging Energy Age, and Enlightened Future), by Joseph Selbie and David Steinmetz. According to that ancient system, we entered a new age of energy in the year 1900. At present (in 2012) we face a struggle between the pull of the past, rooted in a more heavily materialistic age, and the new, more freeing rays of energy-consciousness.

k) At Ananda, which holds itself deliberately open to the rays of Dwapara Yuga, we have only two basic rules. Beyond that, we have flexible traditions. The two rules are: 1) People are more important than things; and 2) Where there is adherence to right action, there lie success and fulfillment of all kinds.

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